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The Sustainable Banking and Finance Report launched on COP 27 Finance Day outlines the skills required by the domestic retail financial services sector to finance Ireland’s net zero transition.

The report co-led by the Sustainable Finance Skillnet in collaboration with Skillnet Ireland, the Institute of Banking (IOB), and the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI), was launched by Seán Fleming, Minister of State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for Financial Services, Credit Unions and Insurance. It identifies the skills gaps, education and training needs for retail financial services in Ireland in the area of sustainable finance and makes key recommendations as to how to progress the sustainable finance agenda. The analysis is a key output of the Irish Sustainable Finance Roadmap talent development pillar, itself an output of Government’s Ireland for Finance strategy. The roadmap is a priority Action Measure under the Ireland for Finance Action Plan.

Minister Seán Fleming said: “The world has to focus its financial system towards sustainability to meet our national and global commitment to tackle climate change. I recently launched the update to the Ireland for Finance strategy, which charts the future development of the international financial services sector in Ireland to the end of 2026. Sustainable finance is a focus for growth in the financial services market in Ireland.  I welcome the launch of this important report which identifies the need for further up-skilling in sustainable finance. This will help international and retail financial services reskill and grow the way we need them to.”  

The report highlights how education and training in sustainable finance to date has concentrated on the financial and capital markets, such as green bonds, regulatory developments, and sustainable investment funds, with a greater focus on the Irish retail financial services sector talent development a next key step.

Dave Flynn, Director of Business Networks, Skillnet Ireland said: “The retail financial services sector has a key part to play in reorienting Ireland’s financial system towards sustainability. This report provides a timely insight into the talent needs of the sector. In partnership with industry, Skillnet Ireland will work to deliver upskilling opportunities to ensure that businesses have access to the skilled talent that is needed to support the adoption of sustainable practices and to help achieve Ireland’s climate goals.” 

The report identifies how achieving a greater cohesiveness and understanding of sustainable finance for retail financial services could support organisations’ efforts to integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors and to scale up their green products offerings, as well as support Ireland’s ambition to become a leader in sustainable finance.

Yvonne Holmes, Chair of Sustainable Finance Skillnet and Chief Sustainability Officer, AIB, said: “With the support of Skillnet Ireland since March 2020 the Sustainable Finance Skillnet has up-skilled over 2,400 Irish located financial services sector professionals in sustainable finance. With the analysis and focus that this report brings to bear on the retail financial services sector, we can now allocate resources in a more targeted manner into 2023. Critically this will support the accelerated development of a cohort of sustainable finance retail professionals that will support Ireland’s real economy net zero transition.”   

Mary O’Dea, CEO of IOB noted that retail financial services play a critical role in supporting Ireland’s transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon economy. “At IOB, we see first-hand how education can play a powerful role in accelerating transformation and sparking real change. We were delighted to support the development of this new report and look forward to continued collaboration across the sector as we build the world-class education offerings that will enable Ireland’s retail financial services professionals to become sustainable finance leaders,” Mary said. 

Louise O’Mahony, Head of Sustainable Banking at BPFI welcomed the publication of the report “as the beginning of an excellent collaborative approach to training, leveraging off the expertise and support of Sustainable Finance Skillnet”. Louise added: “BPFI recognises that upskilling banking professionals to support the integration of ESG into retail financial services is essential to fulfil BPFI members’ Net Zero commitments and manage the challenging regulatory landscape arising from the rollout of the EU’s sustainable finance agenda.  This was very much reflected in a recent BPFI survey of its membership which showed that nearly 20% of respondents believe availability of requisite skillsets is the biggest challenge to achieving the Government’s ambition to become a green finance hub.” 

COP27 is the 27th annual UN meeting on climate which is taking place this week in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. It is the largest annual gathering on climate action and brings together heads of state, ministers and negotiators, along with climate activists, civil society representatives and CEOs.  

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